When Shelby first arrived at the Dumb Friends League Harmony Equine Center™ in August 2022, the young, feral horse was in dire need of medical attention. An identification tag had become embedded in his neck, resulting in a large and severely infected open wound. Shelby’s pain was excruciating, matched only by his fear of people and his new surroundings. As such, he needed a specialized, thoughtful treatment plan to address his complex medical and behavioral needs.

The Harmony team initially managed Shelby’s pain with medication and by cleaning and dressing his neck wound through a metal panel to ensure everyone’s safety. Our equine trainers then worked consistently with Shelby to build trust and relax his deeply ingrained defenses. Eventually, as he began to heal and feel more secure, his treatment and training eased as well.

After nearly a year of work, rehabilitation, and loving care at Harmony, Shelby grew more comfortable with the halter and saddle. In fact, during his time in our care, he completed nearly 30 rides across our 160-acre facility, conquering water crossings, changes in terrain, and much more! His amazing progress and newfound confidence inspired everyone at the League. And while he will always have an extensive depression scar on his throat latch (a part of a horse’s anatomy where the head and windpipe meet at the base of the jaw), his wound is now fully healed.

In August 2023, Shelby was chosen to be a part of the renowned CSU Right Horse Program, where he recently completed his training with students working to advance their horsemanship and equine clinical skills at Colorado State University (CSU) and the school’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. One such pre-veterinary student was Maia, a committed and passionate sophomore with plans to one day practice emergency medicine. When Maia first met Shelby, she was immediately drawn to his story of survival and transformation. “He touched my heart,” she said, recalling their instant connection. “I knew at that moment I [would be] rolling with him.”

From very early on, Maia could also see a promising future beyond the classroom for the “great, young horse” she would soon be training – a feeling that only grew deeper with each passing day and milestone reached. “I’m really happy with Shelby’s progress,” she said, reflecting on his gentle and inquisitive nature, keen intelligence, and growing capacity for trust. “[It seems like] he has no idea that people have failed him.” Like all of us at the League, Maia is hopeful that Shelby’s life, from this point forward, is filled with nothing but love, patience, understanding, and connection. Now that the semester has ended, Shelby is living his best life with his loving new adopter – and lots of visits from his dear friend, Maia!

Your generosity is crucial to transformations like Shelby’s. Please consider donating to the Dumb Friends League today by visiting ddfl.org/give. Through December 31, donations will be matched up to $200,000, meaning you can double your impact for animals in need. Thank you.